I am a novice in home repair and yet I am buying my first home which is
conditional upon home inspection, during which I plan to find out about
the problem which is haunting me. This house is 6 years old and was
rented out so, of course, the tenants didn't bother to take care of the
house. What I see is a stain from water leak on the ceiling of the
living room, which seems to follow the outline of the shower stall in
the bathroom right upstairs. It is about 4-5 inches long, straight line
kind of, and is on only one side. Then there is another stain about a
couple of feet away near the smoke detector. This is more kind of
circular stain ..... there is the upstairs hallway here and the
upstairs is carpeted..... I can also feel that that section of the
carpet is kind of raised as if someone spilled a whole lot of water
there....surrounding is ok.
So now my question to you is that do you (experts and experienced
people out there) think this may be something major ??? I know that the
home inspector probably will find this out...but I still want to know
about the experience people have had. Can a big jug of water if spilled
can show stain on downstairs ceiling like in this 2nd stain I am
talking about?? Any advice on what to look for and what to ask on the
day of home inspection??
Thanks for the help!!
To properly assess this will very likely mean opening
*some* part of the structure. Whether it is the ceiling
or a wall adjacent to the shower or...who knows.
You simply will not know the cause(s) nor how to repair
until the opening is made. Sure, you and the inspector
can gaze into a crystal ball.......
Make the sale contingent upon the seller rectifying the
problem and restoring all surfaces, or....low ball
So are you saying that even the home inspector won't be able to tell me
if its a good bet or my worst nightmare without drilling holes into the
ceiling? We actually got the seller to negotiate because of this
problem. My real estate agent thinks the work will be done in the ball
park of about $5000. I am also planning to getting a bathroom guy on
the day of home inspection to see what these experts think........
A hopeful home buyer asked: "So are you saying that even the home
inspector won't be able to tell me if its a good bet or my worst
nightmare without drilling holes into the ceiling?"
What we're saying is that it's *possible* that the home inspector won't
be able to tell where the problem is. On the other hand, (s)he might go
upstairs and find a gap around the shower stall where there should be
grout or caulk. The exact location of leak can be hard to determine
simply by visible and/or physical evidence of damage. As the good
Reverend pointed out, water will sometimes follow a hidden path due to
surface tension and not show up anywhere near the actual leak. No one
in the group can say for certain whether or not the inspector will be
able to determine the problem without some type of access to the
So, get your contingencies lined up ahead of time, make sure the
inspector has *your* best interests in mind and don't let the real
estate agent be the one making the call about the repair.
It's tough to tell where the water is coming from by looking at the
ceiling. The straight line you see is where water is pooling at a
drywall joint. The circular stain follows the outline of the smoke
detector hole. I've seen exactly the stains you describe before. If
you can eyeball the ceiling for a while and figure out where the
drywall joints are, perhaps you can narrow the leak down to a 4x8 foot
proximity. Or the water could be following some other path before it
hits the drywall.
I had a house for a while that had a leak stain on the main floor
ceiling but there was no plumbing above it. If a shower had leaked,
the stain would have been far away. Looking back on it, I'm certain
now that the dryer vent that exited through the roof was leaking during
heavy rain. Water would run down the vent pipe, behind the dryer, and
onto the ceiling below. So you never know. Could be anything.
Talk it over with your inspector. Perhaps bring in a plumber. Run all
the appliances. Fill the sinks and bathtubs (all the way to the
overflow). Check the attic and crawlspaces. Etc.
It's a very common thing to happen so don't let it kill your deal
unless it looks like the sellers are trying to hide something.
Or, the renters might have called the owner a dozen times about the
problem. I was a renter, many years ago, and had a puddle on my dresser
one morning. I called the landlord, because the water came from
upstairs apartment. "I told them to keep a bucket under the sink."
Landlord knew their sink had no trap, and he could well afford to repair
I painted the condo upstairs from mine several years ago when owner was
ready to sell. Their master bath had aluminum/glass door that had no
caulking around it, which let water run outside, rust out the corner
bead on the wall and rot the wallboard behind the tile. Same straight
like of cracked and peeling paint on our ceiling right below it.
Could be particle board beneath the carpet that got wet, expanded.
There could be a plumbing leak, a roof leak, or just careless use of the
shower. If you can get into the attic, check it out. Roof (or other
exterior leaks) can travel a good distance, running down rafters, pipes,
wires or ducts to the "lowest" spot and puddle there. If the shower
plumbing has an access panel, look in there as well. Probably a 50:50
chance a home inspector will find the origin of the problem.
The other thing to be concerned about here is possible mold. It
sounds like this has been there for a long time, in which case you
could have a mold problem. And you won't know that till you open up
the ceiling and take a look. Even if it;s there, the extent of it is
the real issue. For example, if it's a drain leak, then it's likely
to be more localized than if the leak is where the wall tile meets a
tub. In that case, the wet/problem area could be much larger and
involve removing and replacing tile walls. And at that point it gets
to the point that while you're at it, you might very likely want to
redo the whole bath. But if you're getting a $5K credit, that should
go a long way towards fixing a lot of it.
I'd ask the seller if they are OK with having an inspection hole cut
in the ceiling by the home inspector. They might just say yes, and
you have nothing to loose by asking.
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